First, thank you for the trust so many of you placed in me during the last city election. Yes, it was disappointing to come in first runner-up at the end of a bruising race, but I went to bed on election night sunburned and elated, proud to have run the hardest-working campaign of the season. The next morning I applied for every open city board and commission seat at the time. Things have been nonstop ever since.
So we've arrived in 2017 with many of the issues we talked about last time still unresolved. The city still struggles to be an affordable and sustaining home to many. The character of the community is more threatened than ever by traffic, a weak job market, adverse legislation and the impacts of being a highly-commodified tourism economy. We have more hotels opening than ever, but fewer affordable places to live. And despite passing massive bonds in 2016 to pay for parks, roads and affordable housing, city government hasn't yet figured how to balance old needs with new ones, the steady creep of gentrification against the needs of locals, the 90,000-and-counting conflicting ideas of what Asheville is supposed to be.
But I have hope. It's clearer than ever that the root thing that makes this "Asheville" to all of us is the feeling of a genuine, diverse, working, small town. A place whose natives and newcomers, Baptists and tattoo artists live cheek-by-jowl and pull together for the community. A place that's easy to get around. A place that preserves its buildings and history. A place that lets others live and do as they like, that encourages them, even. A city for locals. A place that holds itself out as a bastion of tolerance and commonsense old mountain progressivism. A place that feels beautiful and authentic.
I believe we can hold onto all that even if our population balloons past 100,000 (as expected in the next decade) or 200,000. The core character can be saved. But it's going to take work: local government that's daring, knowledgeable and committed, with the public always pushing it to try harder. I have a few thoughts about how it can happen. I'm sure you have some I haven't heard yet. If you have an idea or want to be part of this effort, please contact me using the link below and get involved. I'll work with anyone, always have.
I'm ready to work,